March 5, 2017
Trump Administration's Steep Budget Cuts May Affect NOAA Climate Change Programs

The Trump administration's latest planned reforms may result in a significant budget cut to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its climate change research programs.

Based on government literature obtained by the Washington Post, the NOAA may lose 17 percent of its existing budget, and that may result in a lack of funds for research and satellite programs as well as other smaller programs. These include coastal management initiatives, such as "coastal resilience," which is designed to help coastal areas be more prepared for weather events and rising sea levels.

The Washington Post also noted that NOAA is under the Commerce Department's umbrella, a department that stands to take an 18 percent budget cut from present levels.

The four-page Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memo obtained by the Washington Post added that the Commerce Department will need to be transparent in disclosing the costs of laying off employees, while also stressing that employees who won't get laid off will get a 19 percent pay hike early in 2018. However, the OMB's literature also states that specific areas within NOAA, including climate change research, will be gutted by the planned cuts. The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research stands to lose a whopping $126 million, or 26 percent of its funding, while the satellite data division may be out $513 million, or 22 percent of its current budget.

Meanwhile, both the National Marine Fisheries Service and National Weather Service won't be affected too much, only standing to lose 5 percent of their respective budgets.

Some experts, however, are concerned about the broader effects of the budget cuts on the NWS, despite the comparatively small loss of funding. On his official blog site, University of Washington professor and climate expert Cliff Mass warned on Friday that the proposed Trump administration budget cuts are significant and won't just affect the NOAA's climate change research initiatives, but also the National Weather Service's "ability to improve the quality of weather predictions."

"The Trump administration has been vocal in its opposition of climate research and attempts for mitigation of global warming," Mass opined. "In the proposed cuts, they have taken the knife and harmed the wrong target: U.S. weather prediction operations and research."

By far, the largest proposed budget cut may affect NOAA's National Environment Satellite, Data, and Information Service. This was the department behind a study that had posited that climate change's effect on global warming has not slowed down in recent times. The OMB's literature also suggests that the Trump administration wants to eliminate Sea Grant, a $73 million initiative that supports coastal research across several educational institutions in the U.S.

Commenting on the proposed budget cuts, which may allow the Trump administration to focus on "rebuilding the military," former NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco told the Washington Post that the plans may leave America more vulnerable to extreme weather events through a lack of accurate forecasts.

[Image by Brian Blanco/Getty Images]

President Donald Trump's administration has long been criticized for its perceived denials of climate change. In December, The Atlantic wrote in an op-ed that Trump's election as president is a "triumph of climate denial," as voters were seemingly less concerned about global warming than they were about terrorism, healthcare, and other issues.

The op-ed also quoted Yale University program on Climate Change Communication director Anthony Leiserowitz, who said that the administration's views on the matter may also affect how Republican voters think about the phenomenon in the future.

"If the Trump administration continues to push the false claim that global warming is a hoax, not happening, not human caused, or not a serious problem, I'd expect many conservative Republican voters to follow their lead."
Looking at the implications of what the Trump administration plans to do to NOAA, its climate change programs, and other related initiatives, Pennsylvania State University professor and former NOAA chief operating officer David Titley also offered his opinion on the matter to the Washington Post.
"The loss of capability will make America weaker both in space and on the sea — a strange place to be for an administration that campaigned to 'make America great again.'"
[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]